22 tips to enhance production: WOOD 100 Strategies for Success

Lean manufacturing, training, new technology and some innovation are helping these woodworking manufacturers increase production while improving quality and efficiency. What follows are some of the methods put in place by the 2019 WOOD 100 class, which includes cabinet manufacturers, residential and office furniture producers, architectural woodworkers, wood component manufacturers, closet companies and more.

Now in its 30th year, the WOOD 100: Strategies for Success highlights the innovative as well as tried-and-true initiatives put in place by 100 North American wood products manufacturers to grow their businesses. Here's what some of them had to share for productivity enhancements:

California Woodworking, Oxnard, CA —  Key steps that led to the cabinetry and countertop firm’s success in 2018 include upgrades in the fabrication department and doubling the number of estimators from one to two, allowing the company to service more customers, said Luke Vickery, president.

California Woodworking also added a residential cabinetry division to its portfolio, as well as a showroom to display product offerings.

“In 2019, we are considering the purchase of another CNC machine. We are also considering opening a stone countertop fabrication facility,” Vickery said. “We also purchased software that assists our production line with efficiently sorting cabinet parts, which has led to increased productivity.”

Sales expectations for this year and next are “excellent,” he added.

JB Cutting, Mt. Clemens, MI — The components manufacturer invested in technology and focused on efficiency improvements to increase productivity and profitability.

“Although we stayed flat and didn’t show growth over 2017, we were more profitable by focusing on efficiencies and rework, said Debra Behring, president.

The company’s recent investments in technology include nested-based CNC routers, a flipper and buffing station for the press and another five-piece door machine.

Founded in 1995, JB Cutting specializes in 3D laminate and five-piece doors, drawer fronts and accessories for the kitchen, bath, home organization, store fixture, and healthcare furnishing environments.

Plato Woodwork, Plato, MN —  With more than a century under its belt, the custom frame and frameless cabinetry firm continues to be successful in today’s residential marketplace.

Contributing to Plato’s success has been a “focus on our true strengths, focus on key accounts, retention of employees and capital investments,” said Karl Pinske, president.

Among the technology investments by the company last year were a CNC router, moulder, and finishing equipment. Additional purchases in 2019, including straight edge and contour edgebanders, return conveyors, case clamps and solvent recovery systems, should increase Plato’s productivity and profitability even more, Pinske said.

2018 fiscal sales grew 8.9%, and the cabinetry manufacturer expects 2019 figures will exceed that number, with 2020 also projected to be a good year.

Elias Woodwork, Winkler, MB —  “Product development according to market trends and then the ability to increase productivity were key to our growth last year,” said Jeremy Funk, executive vice president - Sales & Marketing.  “We also added more automation and expanded the workforce in key areas to satisfy customer expectations of product selection and quick turnaround times.” 2018 sales grew 17.7%.

Elias’ products are used in a variety of industries, including new kitchen and bath cabinets, refacing, commercial and residential millwork, renovations, and RVs. Elias manufactures cabinet doors, mouldings, dovetail drawer boxes, curved doors and components, refacing material, RTA cabinets and wood accessories.  The company also produces thermofoil and DLV doors and accessories at the 375,000-plus-square-foot facilities.

Top Producers

Bella IMC, Huntertown, IN

Sales are booming at Bella, which manufactures cabinets to order from its online customizable ordering system. “There is only one key step you can ever make that leads to success for any business and that is adapting and making the necessary changes to stay ahead of the curve. We constantly improve our processes in the office and on the manufacturing floor,” said Chad Shelton, president. New technology, including a Morbidelli CNC router, Stefani edgebander and Kaeser compressor, also helped “double our production output,” said Grant Weber, director of Operations & Sales.

AB&D Furniture Mfg., Homewood, IL

Sales have been steady for the 30-year-old manufacturer of OEM and branded library and office furniture. Investments in technology over the past few years, including CAD/CAM software and an automatic contour edgebander, enabled it to reduce its employee size from 25 to 15. “Now employees hired are for increased production,” said Randy Agate, president & owner.

Caseworx, Hudson, NC

Sales at Caseworx grew 43.8% last year, due to “more efficient communication and streamlined processes,” said John Bostian, GM. Projections for 2019 and 2020 are also very positive for the manufacturer of architectural millwork, plastic laminate cabinetry, laminate and solid surface countertops, and finished wood cabinetry.

TNT Door & Drawer, Covington, GA

The custom cabinet components manufacturer increased productivity through process improvements in material handling, layout strategies and other various processes, said Eric Crane, GM. The firm also made “data-driven decisions on capital equipment purchases,” including a Doucet rotary door clamp.

Appalachian Wood Products Inc., Clearfield, PA

Winner of a 2019 WMIA Wooden Globe Award, the components firm’s improved its production by investing in technology, including a DMC widebelt sander and planer-sanders from SCM, a Weinig gang saw system, and Timesavers planer-sanders.

Millwork 360, Tampa, FL

“From 2017 to 2018 we increased our sales 30% by drawing more out of our existing customer base, expanding into the Caribbean market, and re-configuring our production layout and lean processes to increase output and efficiencies,” said Jamie Burge, CFO. To aid productivity and maintain its 7-10 day lead times on custom moulding, Millwork 360 added a Weinig Powermat 700 moulder, its fourth moulder.  “Another key capex investment is our Factory Finishing Facility, which allows us to do all pre-finishing in-house. The majority of our doors are sent out pre-finished as a result, which adds 20% of revenue to our top-line door revenue.” Millwork 360 also saw its fiberglass door line grow in sales.

Lifetime Design Corp., Deer Park, NY

“In 2018 Lifetime Design made the strategic decision to implement Lockdowel hidden fasteners for our cabinetry. Not only did this allow easier transportation to the jobs, it saved us a considerable amount on labor,” said James Romanelli, president.  “Because we were able to hire people with little or no experience and train them to assemble cabinetry, it has been easier for us to hire and has allowed us to be more aggressive with our bidding –- and win more jobs.” The company is also able to meet tight schedules, and increase gross sales. 2018 sales for the commercial woodworking and architectural millwork firm grew 22.9%.

Rynone Mfg. Corp., Sayre, PA

Along with the addition of several new CNCs, President Richard Rynone credits a “continued concentration on lean manufacturing principles, product development, quality and excellent customer service,” with spurring the cabinet, casegoods and countertop manufacturer’s continued success. Sales for the multi-million dollar firm grew 2.9%.

Victor Robbins Group LLC, Hainesport, NJ

The architectural woodwork firm focused on hiring personnel, lean manufacturing progress through the implementation of multiple hand tool and supply stations, as well as company-wide improvements including finishing and software, said Robert Schultz, sales. 2018 sales grew 11.8%.

Cabinet Solutions, Brantford, ON

Sales grew 66.7% for the casegoods supplier to custom millwork firms, with 2019 and 2020 projections also looking good. “New ownership invested in software and streamlined the information flow to existing high-quality machinery,” noted Drew Neven, GM. New technology includes the 2018 purchase of Microvellum software, and an SNX contour bander in 2019.

Bernhard Woodwork Ltd., Northbrook, IL

President Mark Bernhard credits employee skills and new technology for the architectural woodwork and retail fixturing firm’s continued success. The firm installed a complete SCM manufacturing system “to streamline basic cabinet manufacturing for speed and price,” including CNC router, boring/doweling system and edgebander, as well as a case clamp and wrapper in 2018, with a sander and veneer press on tap for 2019.

Family Woodworks, Piketon, OH

“Upgrading equipment (including a planer, jointer and gang ripsaw) allowed me to be more efficient and increase production, along with maintaining a high-quality product,” said George Barlow, owner. The firm makes white oak picture framing and custom trophy bases for sale to art dealers and galleries, plus retail. 2018 sales grew 23.2%

Heritage Woodworks, Suffolk, VA

“We worked on standardizing and improving processes, which correlated to more consistent productivity and quality,” said Daniel Hooper, CEO. The custom cabinetry firm also invested in new technology, including a door machine and edgebander 2018 sales grew 30.1%.

Dartmouth Woodworks, Waltham, MA

The custom casework and millwork shop’s sales grew 33.3%, with 2019 and 2020 projections also “excellent,” said Ari Monias, shop manager. He noted the company “recognized areas that needed to be developed and is always open to ideas.” To aid productivity the company purchased a Homag widebelt sander last year, with 2019 purchases including an edgebander and vertical CNC.

Nations Cabinetry, San Antonio, TX

“We were able to grow sales revenue by 6% through a focused approach to delivery, quality and team engagement,” said JW Coady, CEO of the cabinetry firm. “We constantly look for ways to add value in to our product streams by embracing innovation.” Technology purchased in 2018 includes a Holz-Her hybrid edgebander Koch drill/dowel, and Dynma fully automatic case clamp.

Precision Wood Products,  Inc., Camden, OH

The manufacturer of wood door and drawer fronts and specialty products upgraded its finishing and sanding operation, invested in equipment including an automatic chop saw, and made upgrades to shipping and packaging to reduce damage, said John Herig, regional sales manager. “We maintained a 10-day lead time and kept deliveries consistent.”

The Closet Works, Inc., Montgomeryville, PA

A lean manufacturing/Kaizen advocate, “We are continually exploring new technologies, systems and methodologies to improve our customer experience as well as our employee experience,” said David Cutler, president. 2018 sales for the manufacturer of custom organizing systems grew 10.4%.

S&S Woodcraft, Cold Lake, AB

Custom cabinetry and millwork firm’s sales grew 27.6%. “Our major focuses included, standardization, automation and improvement of flow within our facility,” said Christopher Savic, director. The company has seen a substantial reduction in inventory, shortened lead times, improved tracking and scheduling and a reduction of errors and defects.

The 2019 WOOD 100 is sponsored by Pollmeier Inc.

Read more 2019 WOOD 100: Strategies for Success

Marketing Initiatives

Business Strategies

Productivity Enhancements

Technology Integration

Product Innovations

Customer Service

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About the author
Karen Koenig | Editor

Karen M. Koenig has more than 30 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As editor of special publications under the Woodworking Network brand, including the Red Book Best Practices resource guide and website, Karen’s responsibilities include writing, editing and coordinating of editorial content. She is also a contributor to FDMC and other Woodworking Network online and print media owned by CCI Media. She can be reached at [email protected]